The current permanent display, opened to the public in 1995 according to the ideas of the then director, Vladimir Maleković, and the spatial articulation of architect Marijan Hržić, includes material from almost all the museum collections, chosen according to criteria of quality and representativeness of style.
Almost 3000 exhibits displayed on about 2000 square metres of exhibition floor space from the collections of furniture, ceramics, glass, metal, fabric, painting, sculpture, clocks and watches, photography, graphic and product design, ivory, bookbinding and painted and gilt leather provide an insight into the development of artistic and craft production from the late Middle Ages until the present day, historical changes of styles in which the special feature of the Croatian cultural space as well as of the wider intellectual and spiritual trends of the times are mirrored.
In 14 rooms on two floors of the Museum, museum objects are presented within the framework of units conceived in such a way as to illustrate in chronological sequence stylistic periods ranging from Gothic to Art Déco. Within the stylistic and morphological spatial units, the museum objects in all their heterogeneity create an image of the individual times and document the high level of lifestyle in this area. It is important to point out that the temporal borders of the individual stylistic units are determined by the specificity of the cultural and historical developments of the lands of the Croats, and do not always coincide precisely with periodisation usually found in the fine arts. It can also be seen that the stylistic characteristics of objects from the inland areas of Croatia clearly draw on germanophone countries, while the Adriatic or coastal area of Croatia clearly indicates its closeness to the Italian sphere of cultural influence.
The historical review of artistic styles in the permanent display is complemented with independent thematic units. The unit dedicated to religious art includes religious painting and sculpture, vestments and liturgical Items of metal. A particular form of religious art consists of devotionalia – items meant to be used in the practice of household devotions – votive paintings, small household altars, crosses, rosaries and medallions. Within the religious art unit, Judaica makes up a separate whole, showing items meant for Jewish liturgies in the synagogue as well as in the home during diverse religious rites and festivals.
The galleries on the first and second floor show painting from the museum holdings: on the first floor there is a selection of Baroque painting including works by the most important schools of painting of the time – Italian, French and Dutch, while on the second floor gallery is a selection from the holdings of Croatian 20th century painting.
Old Croatian photography (up to 1950) and graphic and product design (1950s to 1990s) that are presented as units for themselves are an introduction to the section of collections in the permanent display, where it is possible to follow the stylistic development and diversity in the most typical specimens from the collection of clocks and watches, ivory, metal, textiles, glass, ceramics and fashion; in addition to stylistic features, the diversity of typology, material and technique can also be traced.
Because of the great sensitivity of the materials, the current display does not include items on paper from the collections of graphic art and of architecture.
During the last decade, new acquisitions as well as ongoing professional and scholarly advances in the study of the museum holdings have led to slight changes and additions to the original display, which nevertheless follow the basic conceptual thread of the 1995 permanent display.